A Honolulu police officer received an unspecified administrative action for falsely accusing a former state senator of patronizing an illicit massage parlor.
The decision came after former state Sen. Will Espero filed a complaint with the Honolulu Police Department regarding the social media post made by Officer Chester Desiderio that claimed that Espero escaped a police raid of a “certain” massage parlor.
That complaint was sustained earlier this month, according to a letter from the HPD’s Professional Standards Office to Espero.
“People have criticized me and said bad things about me on social media before,” Espero said in an interview. “That comes with the territory of being a politician, but when a policeman, who you expect to have higher morals and character, blatantly lies, then obviously he’s crossed the line.”
The initial complaint was made on April 29 and was in reference to an exchange Espero had with Desiderio on a Civil Beat Facebook post. The post shared an April 20 article about the Honolulu Police Department refusing to release body camera footage of its officers shooting and killing 16-year-old Iremamber Sykap.
In the comments, Espero, who served as state senator from 2002 until 2018, called for the footage to be released.
“Be transparent. Release the tragic video of a child being shot. The video belongs in the public domain,” he wrote, calling the choice not to release the footage a “bad decision.”
Moments later, Desiderio shot back at Espero, tagging the former senator in his post.
“Will Espero, I am an honest citizen and member of the community who saw through your lies and didn’t vote for you!!!” Desiderio wrote.
The officer then added, “Will Espero, remember the time when you was at a certain massage parlor and when HPD came to raid the place you went exit in the back to escape. Wow so quick to bash HPD aren’t you.”
Espero asserted that the officers claims were untrue.
“It was really the dumbest, stupidest thing,” Espero said. “The main point, though, is that he lied and we don’t want liars in HPD because liars have been in HPD before.”
Desiderio’s Facebook page was taken down after Espero filed his complaint. Months later, Espero got a letter dated Sept. 10 from the HPD’s Professional Standard’s Office.
“Your complaint has been investigated by the officer’s immediate command,” the letter read. “Upon a review of the facts available, your complaint has been sustained.”
According to HPD spokeswoman Michelle Yu, Desiderio was not suspended for any period of time, but administrative action was taken, which Yu said could include a written reprimand or counseling.
Yu also added that Desiderio has been on leave since before the complaint was filed. She said the leave was not related to the complaint, but would not elaborate further.
In the wake of the incident, Espero said that he has no idea whether any action was taken against Desiderio, which he said points to a need for more HPD transparency.
During his years in the Legislature, Espero was one of the most vocal advocates for police reform including pushing legislation that forced HPD to disclose more information on police misconduct.
“I don’t have a clue where it’s going to go,” he said. “All they are saying is that they are sustaining it and we’ll do what we have to do. It doesn’t give me much faith in them if he’s going to get a slap on the wrist and be back in the force.”
Sign up for our FREE morning newsletter and face each day more informed.
Not a subscription
Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service.
That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.
Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.